The other day, I was walking past the transient hotel, and some crazy old coot was wandering around in front of a parked fire truck. As I went past, his rumblings grew louder and more incoherent, and finally, he wheeled on me, put his finger about an inch away from my face, and yelled "...AND I'M GONNA KICK THIS GUY'S ASS, RIGHT HERE!" I stopped for a minute, and gave a beseeching look to one of the firemen, who was loafing against his rig, and who rewarded me with an indifferent shrug. I kept walking and the incident as well as the crazy man was soon behind me.
Yesterday, I was walking past the bus stop, and a different guy, younger but if anything even crazier, was running around like a wild man, kicking pigeons. I don't really care for that sort of thing, even directed at flying rats, so I said, in an indoor voice, "Hey, hey, man. Easy." He started shrieking at me and then ran towards me in his pigeon-kicking posture; I instantly assumed a defensive position and dropped my hands, thinking I was gonna have to clock the guy. At the last minute, he careened away with a lunatic smile; the pigeons took their business elsewhere, and this too was soon behind me.
Now, I happen to think that there is a time and a place for everything, including beating someone's ass right into the gutter. But there is nothing to be gained from whaling on some unfortunate bum who's probably being directed by a powerful combination of alcohol and insanity. I would feel no sense of accomplishment in laying out some hapless, homeless crazy. The better angels of my nature bid me leave them be, no matter how kooky the provocation.
But here's the thing: the better angels of my nature haven't been sleeping much lately, and half the time, they're armed. Pray the rosary for me to stay off the nightly news.